Thursday, 23 June 2011


No matter what John Squire does he’ll always be best known as the art-dabbling guitar hero who helped alter Britain’s musical and cultural landscape after the post-Smiths wilderness years. His plasticine jigsaw globe on the sleeve of Do It Yourself is almost as iconic as his riffarama on “Love Is The Law” or “Happiness Is Eggshaped”. But there is more to life than The Seahorses, as this new exhibition of paintings show.

His illuminating collection of completely new works examines how modern Western society’s idolisation of celebrity culture has devoured our traditional symbols of salvation and replaced them with new gods. Not my words, as you can tell, but from the gallery’s blurb. It then goes on about Babylonian Star Cults and Ancient Sumerians before losing me completely. Squire more helpful says “It’s a brief respite from the endless bombardment of celebrity images. It asks: How often do we really need to see copies of complete strangers’ faces, and why do we collectively choose those particular people?”

The works are all abstract representations of household names, often composed using eight pointed stars to create a mosaic feel. Although it’s near impossible to guess from the paintings who they represent (it’s tempting to try), once you read the caption, the recognition slowly dawns: Sugar Ray Leonard’s boxing-glove-red supernova; Lindsay Lohan’s shambolic scribbled mess; Cheryl Cole’s thinly decorative fluff; a disintegrating Woody Allen; the dark claustrophobic descent of Richard Pryor; Phil Spector’s swirling madness; and, as they used to say on television commercials for albums of all your favourite pop hits, many many more. I couldn’t fathom Alison Steadman (above) but if I were her I’d buy it (£6000) to hang over the fire place, Jock Ewing style. It's testament to Squire all his images live longer in the memory than anything carrying the same name in the Sunday tabloids.

Now, how about another Seahorses record? The gap’s nearly been as long as the one between albums by that other group.

John Squire: Celebrity is at the Idea Generation Gallery, Chance Street, Bethnal Green, London, E2 until 3rd July 2011. Admission free.

1 comment:

  1. If only I had time to go to London before 3rd July I'd be there like a shot - very intriguing, very beautiful, looks a little resonant of Klimt too (which pleases me!) never mind the musical pedigree as well, what a talented geezer. I'll have to investigate more, thanks for posting.